In which it is revealed how truly smart my brother Teddy is…
If you happened to read my “Golden” posts a couple weeks ago, you’ll know that my mother thinks of my brother Teddy as “the smart one” of her four children. It’s important to note that in Korea intelligence is measured on an entirely different scale. We’re not talking remedial summer school, or even second-choice college material. We’re talking “not widely understood to be in line for the next round of MacArthur grants.” The collective Darwinian term my father favors for these unfortunate people is “Stragglers and Weaklings.”
When we were little, we didn’t have any toys. Consequently, I played with sticks and mud. My brother, on the other hand, was far more resourceful. He would fashion elaborate launching devices and real working mechanical vehicles with soup ladles, pots and pans, and rubber bands. Glimmers of his future brilliance were already emerging, but then he’d do something that would make my mom worry that she’d been too old when she had him, or that she had drunk too much Mountain Dew while he was in utero…
My brother graduated from one of this nation’s finest universities with highest honors after four straight years on the dean’s list. He went on to law school where he became the editor of the law review. After passing the bar and going on tour with his band, he became a highly successful software engineer. Now he’s the owner of two businesses. But he didn’t always show such promise, and there were many times throughout his childhood when my parents must have broken out into cold sweats when they contemplated his future.
Teddy was three when we moved to a tiny little town in the deepest, darkest heart of Pennsylvania. My parents desperately needed to find some kind of childcare so my mother could go to work. This was back in the days before preschools were as plentiful as mushrooms after the rain. The only option in our little town was a preschool for kids with learning delays and disabilities.
Certainly any suggestion that their cherished and long-awaited son might actually meet the criteria for such a school would have been unwelcome to my parents to say the very least. This was how we knew my mother was desperate when she took Teddy, (short for Theodore, which means Gift from God, by the way) to the preschool to be interviewed.
The preschool director liked to put her young prospects at ease by warming them up with a few confidence-building, throw-away questions. She threw my brother the softest ball in her arsenal, “So Teddy,” she asked, “What color is the sky?”
Suddenly, the light was extinguished from his eyes, and a dull expression fell over his face like a mask. He gazed around the room disinterestedly, revealing what my sister likes to refer to as his “necklace of dirt balls.” “I don’t know,” he answered.
“What color is the grass?” the director gently probed.
“I don’t know.”
There was no need to continue. “You can start on Monday,” the director said brightly, ruffling Teddy’s hair.
Mother and son walked home in silence. Deeply troubled, my mother looked sidelong at her beloved boy and finally asked, “Teddy, what color is the sky?”
“Blue,” he answered promptly.
“What color is the grass?”
“Green,” he said, without a moment’s hesitation.
“Why didn’t you say that to the lady?”
And suddenly the dull mask: “I don’t know.”
Teddy was so smart, he figured out how to game preschool admission at the tender age of 3!